Former Perth Amboy Mayor Convicted of Fraud

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    NEWSLETTERS

    AP
    In this April 1, 2009 file photo, New Jersey Assemblyman and former Perth Amboy Mayor Joseph Vas sits in Superior Court in New Brunswick, N.J. Vas entered a plea of not guilty to accepting illegal campaign contributions in federal court in Newark on Thursday Aug. 6, 2009.

    Former Perth Amboy Mayor Joseph Vas and an aide were convicted of mail fraud, election finance violations and lying to authorities Friday.

    A federal jury in Newark reached its verdict after deliberating for more than two days.

    Vas and aide Melvin Ramos were convicted on two counts each of mail fraud and of making false statements to authorities. Both were found guilty of one count of violating election finance laws, and Vas was found guilty of misappropriating federal funds.

    The pair was acquitted on four other mail fraud counts.

    Vas, who still faces trial on separate state corruption charges, and attorney Alan Zegas didn't comment after the verdict. Ramos also declined to comment.

    U.S. District Judge Susan Wigenton didn't set a sentencing date. The mail fraud counts are the most serious and carry a maximum prison sentence of 20 years, though both men are expected to serve considerably less time.

    Vas was mayor of Perth Amboy from 1990 to 2008 and served as a state Assemblyman beginning in 2003. Beginning in 2008 he was the Assembly's deputy majority leader. The election financing counts stemmed from his unsuccessful campaign for Congress in 2006, for which Ramos served as treasurer.

    Prosecutors alleged Vas misappropriated federal affordable-housing funds by profiting from the flip sale of a city apartment building and using some of the money for his unsuccessful congressional campaign.

    They also charged that Ramos steered campaign contributions to Vas using straw donors to avoid limits on contributions by individual donors.